Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 4 > Issue 3

Economic Shocks and Civil War

Sylvain Chassang, Princeton University, Gerard Padró i Miquel, LSE, BREAD and NBER,
Suggested Citation
Sylvain Chassang and Gerard PadrĂ³ i Miquel (2009), "Economic Shocks and Civil War", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 4: No. 3, pp 211-228. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00008072

Published: 20 Oct 2009
© 2009 S. Chassang and G. Padró i Miquel
Civil conflict,  Comparative political economy,  War,  International conflict

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In this article:
Two Empirical Regularities
Economic Size and Civil War
Economic Shocks and Civil War
Mutual Fears and Civil War


This article revisits the relationship between income per capita and civil conflict. We begin by documenting that the empirical literature identifies two different patterns. First, poor countries have a higher propensity to suffer from civil war. Second, civil war occurs when countries suffer negative income shocks. In a formal model we examine an explanation often suggested in the informal literature: civil wars occur in poor countries because the opportunity cost of fighting is small. We show that while this explanation fails to make sense of the first empirical pattern, it provides a coherent theoretical basis for the second. We then enrich the model to allow for private imperfect information about the state of the economy and show that mutual fears exacerbate the problem caused by negative income shocks.